Tag Archives: Children’s Book Review
Bedtime Stories: Happy Birthday, Brian Selznick!
Post by Mark T. Locker.
A great event for American children’s literature occurred on this day in 1966. Illustrator and author Brian Selznick was born! Perhaps you have read one of his remarkable picture book-meets-novels, Wonderstruck or The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Hugo Cabret is an amazing novel all about magic and early filmmakers, automata and a boy who lives in the walls of a Paris train station. It has huge segments that read like a silent film. It was made into a pretty good movie by Martin Scorsese. He has also illustration literally zillions of books for other authors. Okay, maybe not zillions, but a number of books. My favorites is The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins which tells the story of the British gentleman who assembled the first dinosaur bones into what he believed them to have looked like. Famously (well, famously if you were a dinsoaur nerd as a kid) he thought the iguanadon walked on fours and had a horn on its nose, like a giant iguana/rhinoceros mashup. We now know it actually has spikes on its thumbs, goodness knows why.
Another great book he illustrated was When Marian Sang about the amazing African American singer Marian Anderson who was forbidden from performing places due to her color. It is a wonderful story and beautifully illustrated.
There are more books that he has illustrated and/or written than I can list here but I encourage you to fill your child’s or nephew’s or your own head with the fantastic drawings and stories of David Selznick.
Bedtime Stories: Relishing Immaturity
The Encyclopedia of Immaturity by Klutz.
I have an aunt who always made an impression on me by her ability to be utterly silly, to make ridiculous jokes, and have fun at everyone’s (including her own) expense. Now that I have my own child, I was both delighted and horrified when she presented him with The Encyclopedia of Immaturity. Brought to you by the editors of the Klutz books, this is the reference books for every child. This book is chock full of pranks, jokes, tricks, and neat little illusions.
Need to learn how to pretend to bonk your head loudly on a table? Do the old “removing your thumb” trick? This is the book for you! If you want to get in a lot of trouble, you can try the old “shaving cream in your napping dad’s hand” trick. Or how to explode a paper bag in a most disruptive fashion.
Upon receiving this book, my son was at first nonplussed. Little did he know the secrets buried within. rest assured, the “DO NOT ENTER LABORATORY” and “CAUTION NUCLEAR WASTE” signs are plastered on his bedroom door! He’s still working on the subtle art of trickery (he is only six, after all) but it has never stopped him from continuing to trick me!
I can’t say I recommend you buy this for your child. But for your nephew, niece, neighbor’s kid, absolutely. Just be sure to look over your shoulder if you find yourself alone with the kid.
Bedtime Stories: You Don’t Have to Wait for Halloween
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Ghost of Graylock by Dan Poblocki.
I know spring is not the time of year people think of creepy, haunted sanitariums. But sometimes, on a stormy spring evening, when the wind is throwing the rain and cherry blossoms everywhere, curling up under a light blanket and a spooky book is just the thing. I have had this ghost story sitting around for a while but finally picked it up. Neil and Bree are siblings in the midst of personal turmoil. Their dad has left for the west coast and their mom is struggling with a nervous breakdown. In order to give her space to recover, the kids are sent to their aunts’ house in a small town in upstate New York. Quickly, they discover that one of their neighbors in the vast and ghastly Graylock Hall, an abandoned sanitarium, supposedly home to the ghost of the wicked Nurse Janet, believed to have drowned more than one patient from the hospital. Naturally, they want to explore; what they don’t plan for is that something would follow them back.
Tormented with visions and feelings, the children begin trying to unravel the mystery of who is haunting them, and why. Is it the malevolent spirit of Nurse Janet, seeking new victims? Or is it one of her victims, seeking justice? Dan Poblocki continues to deliver spine-tingling fun for young teens and grown-up kids at heart alike. Fun book to pull out on a rainy night or a spooky campfire read.
Bedtime Stories: My Hippo Has the Hiccups and other poems
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The iPads for kids at the library are stationed right next to the juvenile non-fiction. Which is to say, I find myself browsing the juvenile non-fiction quite a bit while waiting for my boy to finish up giving a werewolf a haircut, or cutting candy down for a monster, or helping birds with anger issues. I have a particular fondness for children’s poetry. Shel Silverstein is of course the most widely-known children’s poet, quite possibly in the entire universe. But there are a lot of people writing quite entertaining poems for kids. I grabbed a book off the shelf, thumbed quickly through it, and added it to the pile.
I didn’t think much about it since then but noticed that every time there was an eerie silence from my son’s room, I’d find him quietly reading the book of poems. The book is called My Hippo Has the Hiccups by Kenn Nesbitt. The poems are reminiscent of Shel Silverstein, silly poems with catchy rhyming cadences accompanied by little line drawings. They are funny, and often about animals. Apparently he was also named children’s Poet Laureate in 2013. So clearly I’m not the only one who has discovered him.
My teacher ate my homework,
which I thought was rather odd.
He sniffed at it and smiled
with an approving sort of
He took a little nibble
it’s unusual, but true-
then had a somewhat larger bite
and gave a thoughtful chew.
I think he must have liked it,
for he really went to town.
He gobbled it with gusto
and he wolfed the whole thing down.
He licked off all his fingers,
gave a burp and said, “You pass.”
I guess that’s how they grade you
when you’re in a cooking class.
We just returned My Hippo and picked up another volume, called Tighty Whitey Spider. When I explained what tighty whiteys are, naturally my son was intrigued. These are fun poems with a very low ick factor. Recommended for kids of any age.
Bedtime Stories: The Curse Workers: White Cat
Post by Mark T. Locker.
The Curse Workers, Book 1: White Cat by Holly Black.
Here’s an exciting series for teens who like something akin to down-to-earth magic. This series is about a family of curse workers living in New Jersey. Certain people are born with certain abilities. They are known as curse workers, or just workers. With a simple touch of a finger, they can manipulate someone’s emotions, dreams, memories, luck. Some can kill. Some can transform others. The interesting aspect of this is that whenever a worker “works” somebody, the worker is also affected. This is known as blowback. If you erase a memory, you lose a bit of your own. If you manipulate someone’s emotions, your own become unstable for a while. Nevertheless, the organized crime syndicate does not let this stop them. Not knowing who may or may not be a worker has created a world where everyone wears gloves, just in case.
Cassel Sharpe is a teenage boy who comes from a long line of workers. He himself is not a worker, but his grandfather is a death worker, his mother an emotion worker, and his brothers are memory workers. They are all deeply embedded in a crime family. Cassel has spent his life not feeling included because he lacked the skill of the rest. He has also been haunted by the memory of killing his best friend, a girl named Lila, daughter of a major crime boss. But one day, he starts having strange dreams. It would seem a dream worker is communicating with him. But why? He begins to dig and realized that even his own memories cannot be trusted and that everything he thought he knew about himself, and his family, is not what it seems.
This is a unique and intriguing series. It blends the supernatural with the very real angst of being a teenager. Cassel’s life is full of the social stress of high school, compounded with coming from a crime family and being a killer.
Good book for teenagers and adults.